The Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act of 1998 came into full force in the UK on the 2nd October 2000

The Act brought the hearings for cases previously heard in the European Court of Human Rights back to the UK.
This gave the UK more control over the outcome of such cases and followed a series of defeats for the UK government in cases held before the European court.

There are supposedly 16 basic "rights" which should be binding on the Government and other official bodies but there are exceptions to every rule.....

Article 1 of the "European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" was excluded from the UK Human Rights Act which is interesting because this article entrusted the State to "secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in section 1 of this convention"
An outline of the Section 1 Articles follows

The Right to Life
Article 2 supposedly protects our right to life in law but it allows the State to take away our life if the State says that such action is acceptable.
This right covers treatment in hospitals, the rights of the unborn child, protection from risk of death from individuals within the UK or in other countries, and certain prisoner rights.

The Right to be free of torture
This fundamental right includes the right to be free of treatment which is inhuman or degrading and this may include mental torture and even the failure to provide medical treatment for people with serious illness.
Withdrawing such treatment is also included in Article 3.

The Right to freedom from slavery and forced labour
This right not to be treated a a slave or forced to do compulsory labour under threats of punishment and this applies also in times of war. There are exceptions to Article 4 however and this includes such work as military service, in public emergency and specified other tasks.

The Right to liberty and security
Unless justified by an obvious legal procedure there is a right not to be arrested or detained. The actual terms of arrest or detention are not always clear but this is allowed in criminal convictions, to force compliance with an order of a court, in some mental illnesses or to prevent unlawful entry into a country.
Other rights under Article 5 include the right to prompt trials, the right to bail except in specified circumstances, the right to understanding of the reasons for arrest, the right to independent assessment of the lawfulness of the detention and to compensation for wrongful arrest, and in some cases the right to regular review of the situation.

The Right to a fair trial
Article 6 supposedly ensures the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time and applies to both criminal and civil cases.
The hearings must be fair and both independent and impartial. There is a right to a public hearing which should be held in reasonable time.
Rights are covered more completely in criminal than civil cases but a criminal case may include those not classified in that way in UK law. This would include contempt of court or military cases.
Civil cases include those involving private rights or the use of official powers and include personal injuries, employment laws and some tax and social security issues but the civil dispute does not necessarily have to be in a court.
This is a specialist area needing careful study.
Again there are exceptions and these include electoral issues, immigration, prison rules and treatment under the National Health Service.
Although Article 6 does not provide a right to Appeal procedures it does apply to any appeal procedures which are available and appeals to the court on decisions made by an authority are, it seems, covered by the Article 6 standards for fair trials.
Article 6 also gives the right to bring a civil case and demands that people are not excluded from the court process but again there are exceptions. These include people who persistently take cases with no merit to court, people who have been made bankrupt, children and those who have been deemed "out of time" and other unspecified cases.
Although Article 6 does not give the Right to State assisted Legal Aid it does require that such funding should be available in complex cases where it would not be right to expect the person to conduct the case without legal representation.
Article 6 also enshrines the right to a fair hearing in which the person is not disadvantaged when compared with the other party in the action. This is an interesting argument in the recent OP actions in which the plaintiffs found themselves pitched against the might of multi-national companies with their vast resources and were forced to agree to restricted Legal Aid funding and restricted access to internationally renowned experts both in science and in law.
Also under Article 6 the witnesses have a right to be protected, especially if they are vulnerable.
Article 6 also states that any Tribunal hearing must be independent of both parties and this includes the way the members are appointed. They must be impartial in their deliberations and show no bias or prejudice and their actions should not even appear to be so even if they are not in reality.
Again there are specific rights given in criminal cases and Article 6 also covers the rules of evidence.

The Right to be free of unlawful punishment
At times new laws are introduced which make actions previously within the law then unlawful and Article 7 protects the individual from such retrospective legislation.

The Right to Privacy and family
Article 8 covers the privacy of family life, of the home and importantly of correspondence but there are exclusion clauses to give the State right of access. This article also covers the right to privacy of information held about the individual and includes medical information, official records but it also limits any invasion of the person in the form of blood tests or even searches.
The article may even require the State to take action to protect individuals and this may be found useful in preventing exposure of vulnerable people to known dangerous toxins.
As is normal in such Acts the State can override the provisions of Article 7 "for reasons of national security, public safety, protection of the economy, prevention of crime, the protection of health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others" and all these are simply a matter of interpretation.
Those exemptions appear to give the state the right to intercept emails, faxes and other mail at will on the pretext of "national security".

The Right to Freedom of thought and beliefs
Article 9 protects the individual's right to independent thought and religious belief and the right to declare those beliefs but again there are exceptions to the rule largely in respect to protecting society or the rights of others.

The Right to freedom to express views
Even if the views expressed are not widely held or even disliked Article 10 gives the individual has the right to express those views but as before there are exceptions intended to protect society and the rights of others. Again this could be interpreted by the State as a means to silence those whose views may be justifiable but which may harm the economy.
Careful consideration of this point is required as exposing some controversial issues may actually protect the people of the State and therefore strengthen the economy in the long term.

The Right freedom of assembly and association
Article 11 enshrines the right to form peaceful groups be they formal unions or protest groups providing that those groups act within the law and remain peaceful. The right not to join with such groups is also stated and an obligation is placed on the State to allow these rights with the obligation to protect those engaged in peaceful demonstration.
Again the State can exempt themselves from these obligations on the grounds of "national security" or the supposed protection of the health and morals of others, or the prevention of crime. As has been seen in many recent demonstrations the State can act with full force against demonstrators, seemingly even to kill them, in certain circumstances.

The Right to Marry
Article 12 gives everyone the right to marry and start a family provided such marriages comply with the laws of the state.

Article 13 was not incorporated by the UK
Article 13 concerned the right to an effective remedy for violations of the Human Rights Act even of those violations were committed by persons acting in an official capacity.
It is interesting that this section was omitted.

The Right to Freedom from discrimination
Article 14 gives the definition of discrimination as treating people in similar situations differently. It gives protection from discrimination and this includes all other rights covered under the Act so that all the people have equal access to those rights. They cannot be denied on grounds of status. Article 14 does not give protection in all areas of life but it does protect from discrimination on any grounds and any other status and so there may be interesting test cases.
Again there are exemptions but they are not specifically listed.

The Right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions
This is covered by Protocol 1, Article 1, and prevents public bodies from interfering with things a person owns and includes both physical property and intellectual property such as goodwill and even the right to social security benefits. Again there are public interest exemptions.

The Right to education
Protocol 1, Article 2, suggests that no child should be denied the right to education but the Government has placed restrictions on this right which limit the State's duty to provide the most expensive forms of education.

The Right to free elections
Protocol 1, Article 3 covers the right to vote and the secrecy of the vote during elections among other related topics.

The Death penalty
Protocol 6 effectively abolishes the death penalty except for in times of war or threats of war.

Transitional arrangements
There are apparently transitional arrangements which can have retrospective effects and this is also a complex area.
For example hearings which took place after the Act became law on the 2nd October 2000 may well be covered by the provisions of the Act even though the subject of the complaint may have taken place before the act came into force. This may have important repercussions in some cases.

For more detailed information on the Human Rights Act go to

Dated 10/8/2001

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